SFMTA Spent $27 Million on Settlements Last Year
By: Victoria Holliday
Reset research found that last year SFMTA spent $27 million on settling lawsuits levied against the MTA. These MTA settlements accounted for one-third of the $71 million total the city spent on settlements. The MTA had the most settlements of any single city department.
San Francisco Man Sues SFMTA for Improperly Towing His Ride
SFMTA could spend even more on settlements this year if the on-going class action lawsuit against it for improper tows is settled.
In 2008, John J. Riley petitioned SFMTA to refund the $85 fine and $915 in tow fees SFMTA charged him after they towed his car when he was abroad. Despite the fact that Riley held a residential parking permit, and no signs designating parking time limits for his car were posted, Riley’s car was towed after being parked in the same space for 72 hours.
Riley got his refund, but he did not stop there. In 2010, he filed a class action lawsuit against the SFMTA for improperly towing his car based on a non-existing city statute. And with that, Riley is set to become a hero to frustrated San Francisco parkers.
The Class Action Lawsuit
The crux of Riley’s case is this: the city claims it has the right to haul off legally parked vehicles after 72 hours (residential parking permit or not) based on a state vehicle code, while Riley says they can't because no such ordinance exists here in San Francisco. The SFMTA certainly has reason for towing cars after a certain period – nobody wants abandoned cars in their neighborhoods. But Riley’s lawsuit claims that there was no signage regarding the towing of cars with residential parking permits after 72 hours on the block where he parked. Even more, Riley contends no such sign exists anywhere in San Francisco. But that didn’t stop SFMTA from towing his vehicle and hitting Riley with $915 in tow fees.
Should Riley succeed, untold numbers of San Franciscans may be due a refund from the SFMTA. Given that our research shows SFMTA spent $68,000 on improper tow refunds last year alone, there is a pretty solid chance that the number could be substantial.
Stay tuned to follow this story.